The traditional silos of marketing, communications and media will be further shaken up to better craft approaches to engagement that mirror people's psychological and sociological patterns, according to a new Science of Engagement report produced by Weber Shandwick that seeks to apply learnings from the fields of neuroscience, psychology and anthropology to the need for engagement in an “always on” world.
The initiative was led by Adam Mack, Weber Shandwick’s EMEA chief strategy officer, in partnership with behavioural insight agency Canvas8 and a series of globally-renowned experts in the fields of neuroscience (Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy, head of research of the decision neuroscience research group at the Copenhagen Business School), psychology (Olivier Oullier, professor of behavioural and brain sciences at the Aix-Marseille University) and anthropology (Grant McCracken, author of Culturematic, Culture and Consumption and Transformations).
The Science of Engagement shows that the engagement playing field is far more complex than ever before and that the path to total engagement requires consideration through a multitude of scientific fields, theories, dimensions, layers and touch-points.
According to Colin Byrne, Weber Shandwick’s UK and EMEA CEO: “In a world where brands risk lacking differentiation, innovation and purpose-driven creativity are the values that should drive all communication. This is the biggest challenge for today’s CMO: how to develop campaigns that are both innovative enough to capture engagement and yet be highly effective in market.”
The firm believes it has uncovered 10 principles of engagement:
1. Engagement is a finite resource, not an infinite commodity: Engagement with one thing is always at the expense of another. Attention and effort are limited, which means that brands must be realistic about what they demand from people and clear in communicating what people can expect in return.
2. Engagement requires reciprocity: Because engagement costs people time, effort and energy, those seeking high engagement must offer a high reward, whether tangible (a voucher), or a sense of belonging, self-actualization or status.
3. Engagement is not binary: “Engagement is not a light to be switched on or off within people. It shines all the time, varying in intensity from person to person, time to time, and context to context.”
4. Engagement is about what we want or what we like: The human “wanting system” is driven by subconscious desires, while the “liking system” is driven by conscious desires.
5. Immediacy delivers engagement: Human brains have evolved to make snap decisions based on the anticipation of immediate reward. Rewards that are perceived as immediate deliver higher engagement.
6. Engagement decisions are post-rationalized: People are often unaware of the reasons behind their decisions.
7. Engagement can be divided into “capture” and “build”: Shopping for self-assembly furniture, need combined with the furniture’s availability, utility and design, captures a consumer’s attention. But the investment in assembling the chair builds long-term engagement.
8. Engagement benefits from being multi- layered: Religion, for example, applies multiple layers of engagement, each reinforcing the other. It captures engagement with a great narrative and the promise of reward. It builds long-term engagement through social involvement, shared values, and a sense of purpose.
9. Negatives always outweigh positives: Human brains are more driven to minimize risk than seek potential gains. Studies suggest that negative emotions carry roughly twice as much weight as positive ones.
10. Engagement marries experience with expectation: Any engagement decision is shaped by an individual’s personal experience (with a brand, business or organization), and also their expectations. Over-delivery is a surprise, under- delivery is a disappointment.
The study also uncovered 19 “elements” of engagement, personal motivators that drive people to engage.
“Sustained engagement comes from taking a multi-layered approach to the application of the elements,” says the report. “Communications direct and amplify engagement to deliver brand or business goals. This deceptively simple approach requires a deep analysis of the universal biases, needs, wants and likes of the people you are trying to engage. It creates a personalized blueprint for action across a range of categories, industries and environments.”